The Government’s new Agriculture Bill has been criticised as “lacking balance” by an organisation representing tenant farmers.

Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) chief executive George Dunn said the bill did not go far enough to protect British standards in trade.

Dunn added that the document only played “lip service” to increasing on-farm productivity.

“We are not against moving from the status quo for agricultural policy but the opportunity of achieving a comprehensive reform, balancing the needs of food, farming and the countryside appears to have been missed,” he said.

“We support the plans for a new Environmental Land Management Scheme, but it needs to be balanced with a serious effort to work collaboratively with the farming industry to raise productivity through planned investment into farm infrastructure, skills and market development.

“We fear the Government has played only lip service to these important elements.

Protecting standards within trade

“The need to maintain our high environmental and animal welfare standards in the way we produce our food and manage our countryside is of key importance.

“However, so is protecting those standards within our international trading relationships and ensuring that farmers receive a fair return from the supply chain for working to those high standards.

“We fear that what the Government is proposing within the Agriculture Bill in respect of these issues will fall well short of what is required.

“We welcome the Government’s recognition of the need for transition. The decision to de-link direct payments from land and to offer a consolidation of multi-year payments will give flexibility to existing producers to make informed choices about their future.

Yet the long-term strategy seems to be less well-developed including any lack of much-needed reforms to farm tenancy legislation which will provide both roots to entry and progression through the farming industry.

“We will take time to study the Agriculture Bill carefully and to look at what amendments might be required which we will work with MPs and Peers to achieve.”